Three specific lines of inquiry represent the bulk of the research conducted within the lab. One line of research is devoted to understanding the motivational processes that underlie social identification. More specifically, we have been interested in the motivations that may be served by memberships in social groups and how these motivations shape individuals’ perceptions of themselves and other group members. The second line of research centers on the processes through which individuals maintain social inclusion and belonging. A quizzical finding in the rejection and social exclusion literature is that rejected individuals often respond to rejection by becoming hostile, angry, and anti-social—precisely, the behaviors that are likely to lead to further ostracism and exclusion. Although a large body of work now demonstrates the maladaptive consequences of rejection, research is just beginning to explore the mechanisms that may exist to ensure social inclusion. The goal of our research in this area has been to help fill this gap in knowledge. In a third line of work, members of the lab are studying the role that perceived entitativity—the extent to which social aggregates are seen as coherent units—plays in the judgments that perceivers make about groups and group members.
The thread that runs through all of these lines of research is the idea that humans are, by nature, gregarious creatures whose desire to belong to groups, form friendships, and connect with others shapes many of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This observation had led us to explore basic questions regarding how individuals interact with their social environment to satisfy important psychological goals and motives.